Two Spirit: Authentic Selves/Authentic Souls, a Photography Show on View at La Sala de Pepe y Foto Espacio




Chunta getting ready for festival parade, Chiapas de Corzo, Mexico. Photo by Luis Aguilar

In celebration of Pride Month, La Sala de Pepe y Foto Espacio will open its doors to the exhibition ‘Two Spirit: Authentic Selves/Authentic Souls’. The exhibition will be on view from June 1 to July 15, 2024.

 Two Spirit presents photographers who have been documenting and exploring what it means to be a Two Spirit person and how it is performed in both private and public spaces. Loosely defined and often dismissed in contemporary culture as queer / non-binary / gender non-conforming or trans, the individuals in the exhibition Two Spirit: Authentic Selves, Authentic Souls show there is a deeper spiritual context beneath these simple labels. 

Radical faeries at NYC Drag March 2023. Photo by Patrick Mulcahy

This project began with Jozeppi’s participation in the book “Authentic Selves, Celebrating Trans and Nonbinary People and Their Families” published by Skinner House Books. Looking for ways to promote the book’s message, La Sala de Pepe y Foto Espacio has organized and curated a photography exhibition that spans our continent and two countries, from Puerto Rico to Montana, the East Village to Chiapas, Mexico 

Through a wide variety of public and private rituals our subjects, fully supported by friends and family, experience and display their interior spiritual existence in context: the ritual of family. We witness how the acceptance and love from both biological and chosen family members nourish their souls and artistic activities, providing a halo-like armor in a sometimes hostile environment. 

The exhibition presents examples of this culture of love: 

The extended and chosen families of Donald Gallagher, an extraordinary artist, member of the New York City / N.J. Radical Faeries activist group, and longtime singer in Rev. Billy’s Earth Church and Stop Shopping Choir. Jozeppi Angelo Morelli, a Trans Activist and member of Middle Collegiate Church whose extended family includes the relatives he grew up with, the “children” he raised, former colleagues, a network of lovers and friends and the Hopi family who has adopted him into their clan. 

The artists present the biological and nuclear families who have raised two remarkable young men, fully accepting their decision to transition to their true selves: Rhett Bolin and Daydrian Love. 

Rhett, half Native American and half African American grew up in the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on the Flathead Reservation in Montana, in a culture long accepting of Two Spirit peoples. Daydrian Love of Puerto Rican descent grew up in New York’s East Village / Loisaida. The child of activists and artists, Daydrian uses his musical talents to continue in their tradition. 

Chunta at festival in white dress, Chiapas, Mexico. Photo by Luis Aguilar

About the Photographers: 

The work of photographers Luis Aguilar, Patrick Mulcahy and David Spear open our eyes to the many ways rituals we take for granted have become the physical embodiments of our changing views and acceptance of Two Spirit energy in contemporary culture. Festivals, parades, marches, whether originally organized for St. Sebastian or to present an acceptable version of Gay Pride, have spawned wild and wonderous offshoots – drag marches and long nights of subversive Chunta revelry. 

Luis Aguilar presents images of Two Spirit Chunta “gang members” (which are the equivalent of what are called ‘crews’ in U.S. festivals) who find strong intergenerational family support in an annual religious festival in Chiapa de Corzo, Mexico. He follows members of the “House of Tia They” as they participate in a procession in which men dress in women’s clothing. Festival organizers have only recently accepted homosexual and trans people into this celebration. Under the auspices of “Tia They” this new way of thinking about gender in a macho society has revolutionized a centuries-old tradition. Luis runs Caza Fuego, a center for contemporary photography and community in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

The New York City Drag March is an annual parade from Tompkins Square Park in the East Village to the site of the Stonewall Riot. Patrick Mulcahy and Peter Calderon’s documentation of this event is an exquisite look at bodies embodying the history of gay liberation. It is a festival of pure joy, honoring the ancestors of the Stonewall uprising which launched the current national and international Pride movement and introduced younger generations of Two Spirit peoples to their extended spiritual family. Patrick is an active member of Middle Collegiate Church, a fully welcoming community in New York City.

David Spear is Director and co-founder of A VOICE – Art Vision & Outreach in Community Education. He is a Montana Arts Council teaching photographer and a part-time instructor at Salish Kootenai College. David developed Our Community Record at Two Eagle River School on the Flathead Reservation, a project that encourages students to explore and document their community culture and history through visual storytelling. David has taught photography at NYU and the Maine Media Workshops. In 1984 he developed the International Center of Photography’s Community Outreach Program for underserved communities of New York City and was its primary instructor through 1997. 

Curators: Jozeppi Morelli is a retired law enforcement professional and trans activist currently living between Arizona and New York State. Lyn Pentecost PhD is a visual anthropologist, arts curator and community organizer. Joey and Lyn, friends and collaborators, met at Middle Church years ago. 

Founder and Director Emeritus of The Lower Eastside Girls Club of NY, Lyn currently runs the gallery at La Sala de Pepe y Foto Espacio in partnership with Jose ‘Pepe’ Flores. 

Two Spirit: Authentic Selves/Authentic Souls will be on view from June 1 to July 15, 2024 at La Sala de Pepe y Foto Espacio, 73 Ave C, NYC.

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